Polyethylene Blends for Improved Oxygen Barrier: Processing-Dependent Microstructure and Gas Permeability

Kyungtae Kim, Aristotle J. Zervoudakis, Jacob A. LaNasa, Greg Haugstad, Fang Zhou, Bongjoon Lee, Olivier Lhost, Yves Trolez, Frank S. Bates, Christopher W. Macosko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This work demonstrates a greater than expected enhancement of oxygen barrier properties in linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE)-based materials by blending LLDPE with high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The films made by melt pressing the LLDPE/HDPE blends had a greater reduction in oxygen permeability coefficients (PO2) than predicted using common permeability reduction models, i.e., the harmonic average model and zero-permeability nanofiller model. The reduction of PO2 was attributed to the presence of spherulite crystal structures, as revealed by atomic force microscopy combined with infrared spectroscopy (AFM-IR). The LLDPE matrix exhibited significant spherulite formation even at a relatively low addition of HDPEs, which likely formed tortuous pathways for diffusing oxygen molecules. Transport results from melt-pressed films contrast with the results from films with similar compositions prepared by film blowing, which did not show barrier enhancement beyond expectation. AFM-IR revealed that the blown films lacked spherulite crystals likely due to stretching in the machine direction followed by rapid cooling. These findings demonstrate the role of processing in controlling microstructures and thus the oxygen barrier performance. This work offers the possibility of achieving easily recyclable LLDPE-based packaging materials by simple blending of polyethylenes with different crystalline content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-533
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Polymer Materials
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 12 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Chemical Society.

Keywords

  • blown films
  • oxygen barrier
  • polyethylene packaging
  • polymer blends
  • polymer crystallization

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